Today we remember Robin Williams, who would have celebrated his 69th birthday this week, with a rewatch of one of his classics from the 1990’s: Jumanji. Based on the novel by Chris Van Allsburg about “a game for those who seek to find… a way to leave their world behind” the film pits an always energetic and boisterous Williams against a whole swathe of (at that time) pretty good CGI killer animals, killer plants, and killer monsoons. It would go on to be the first part of the Jumanji franchise, though the only to star Williams. Jumanji received mixed reviews at the time of release but was a box office smash, loved by audiences, and is fondly remembered by a generation of film fans.
But did you know…
1) Director Joe Johnston was hesitant to cast Williams fearing that the comedic actors’ propensity for improvisation would steer him away from the script — in the end, Williams was hired with the two compromising on shooting scenes twice: once as per the script, and again with Williams’ improvisational stylings.
2) In addition to Johnston having doubts about casting Williams, the actor harboured his own reservations. After receiving the original script he turned the role down, and Johnston and his writers, aware that Tristar Pictures would only finance the movie on the condition that Williams be cast, did some late-game rewrites which were enough to secure their lead and the studio backing.
3) During the film, Peter (Bradley Pierce) tries to cheat at the board game and is turned into a monkey-boy. For this transformation, he had to go through three hours in the make-up chair for two months. The effect turned out great, but Roger Ebert cited it as a reason for him giving the film a low score, saying Peter looked, “like a Wolf Man”.
Our clip features some charmingly delightful BTS and bloopers from the making of Jumanji.